“I Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine”

January, 8 2018  |  by kevin Back »

Who doesn’t love a good back scratch?

It would be easy to think the grizzly bear filmed above is plagued by the world’s peskiest itch, hidden somewhere amid all that thick fur. That’s probably not what’s going on, however. Enter the science of the bear back scratch.

Grizzlies—and other bear species—rub their backs on trees to communicate with other bears that pass through an area. With their keen senses of smell, grizzlies can easily distinguish the scent of one individual from another, so male bears will frequently rub trees during spring breeding, both to alert females to their presence and to warn other males not to infringe upon their turf.

The seemingly flamboyant act may actually help save bears’ lives. A small male that detects the scent of another bear he knows to be dominant can get out of Dodge before the big boar shows up for a fight. Check out this report from Science Daily on the breakthrough study that got to the bottom of the phenomenon.

Of course, for us at Vital Ground, there’s another meaning to “I Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine.” It has to do with our reciprocal relationship with the grizzly. We believe that a world in which grizzlies can roam is a better world for people, too. Beyond their ecological value on a landscape, these intelligent and powerful mammals remind us that we’re just one strand in the web of life that shares our planet’s air, land and water, and that we should act accordingly. That means saving the right places for grizzlies and other wildlife, for their own sake and so future generations have the chance to witness them.

In other words, your support of Vital Ground scratches the backs of grizzlies everywhere, so they can keep scratching ours—at least metaphorically.